Except that the book business is bracing for its worst holiday season ever. Retailers are slashing orders and publishers are laying people off and new manuscripts are harder to sell than condos in Reno. Lots of panic in the biz right now.
That said, there’s one aspect of the publishing industry that’s way more efficient than the Hot Stove season, where we’re forced to sit around waiting to see which free agents will deign to play for which team for how many millions of dollars.
It’s called an auction.
Seriously. Let’s say Mark Teixeira wrote a novel about – I don’t know – being a vampire, and every editor in New York was eager to acquire it for his or her company.
Mark’s agent, Scott Boras, would set a date for the auction. On that day, editors would submit bids for the book to Scott, who would sift through them, pick the highest bidder and the best marketing plan, and notify the winner. And that would be that. Tex and his vampire novel would have a home. No waiting around. No blogging about why it’s taking so long. Just a done deal.
Authors aren’t that different from ballplayers (not counting the lack of athletic ability and affordable health insurance). There are some, like John Grisham, who’ve stayed with the same publishing house for their entire career. In fact, Grisham is the Derek Jeter of authors.
There are others, like Jackie Collins, who finish up contracts, become free agents, and jump from publisher to publisher, making her the LaTroy Hawkins of novelists.
There are still others, such as the Red Sox-loving scribe Stephen King, who have special bonuses in their contracts (more money for each week a book is #1 on the NY Times bestseller list). Doesn’t that remind you of A-Rod and his “historic event bonuses?”
My agent’s name is Ellen Levine. She’s a big cheese at Trident Media Group, and she conducts auctions all the time. You could call her the Scott Boras of publishing, because she’s been known to make editors cry.
Ellen held an auction for me after I became a free agent. It was the most stressful day of my life. I sat by the phone saying out loud to no one, “What if nobody comes to my auction and we don’t get a single bid?” I thought about other careers I could pursue if we didn’t have any takers. Like maybe this.
Or even this.
Luckily, I had a taker, so I didn’t need to become a dental hygienist, a bullfighter or a clown. If I had to compare myself to a Yankee, I’m probably the Robinson Cano of authors. I can make the stylish play from time to time and hit with power when the mood strikes. But I’m lazy. I fool around too much. I could very easily be shipped off to Kansas City for Zack Greinke.